Canada's military facing workplace harassment issues

More must be done to address the issue, says Trudeau

Canada's military facing workplace harassment issues

Canada’s military is facing issues of workplace violence.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, former defence chief, is being investigated over allegations of inappropriate behaviour that became public following his retirement. Vance has denied any wrongdoing, according to a report from The Canadian Press.

Admiral Art McDonald replaced Vance. However, he has “voluntarily stepped aside” as chief of the defence staff while military police investigate allegations, according to the report, citing a statement from Harjit Sajjan, minister of defence. Vance has also not commented on the issue.

In January, Julie Payette resigned as Canada’s Governor General following a string of claims alleging workplace harassment at Rideau Hall.

With all that’s going on, Prime Minister Justine Trudeau claimed there is much more to do to address the issue of workplace harassment in Canada.

“This is something that is extremely important. And it's something we've taken strides on, both in our government and in the military. But there's always more to do,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau also said that he wants anyone who has experienced sexual assault or other such abuse to know that the government “will be there, to listen, to hear them, to work with them and to move forward through processes that will get to the right answers.”

Independent body

Meanwhile, Erin O'Toole, leader of the Conservative group, said that a Tory government would launch a service-wide independent investigation of sexual misconduct in the military.

Sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces is an “ongoing and serious problem that must be addressed,” O'Toole added. “This unsafe culture must change.”

O’Toole said that general officer promotions would be suspended during the probe, along with salary increases. Also, future harassment complaints would be made to an independent body outside of the chain of command.

New regulations around workplace harassment and violence, and employment equity took in effect for federally regulated workplaces at the start of the year.

Last month, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) developed three online courses to help employers, managers, and employees in federally regulated workplaces understand their specific roles and responsibilities in preventing harassment and violence in the workplace.